On the winners' podium (l-r) Gregory Wathelet, Ludger Beerbaum and Nicola Philippaerts. Mohamed Tinakicht photo

On the winners’ podium (l-r) Gregory Wathelet, Ludger Beerbaum and Nicola Philippaerts. Mohamed Tinakicht photo

The culmination of the CSI3* competition at CHI Al Shaqab, in Doha, Qatar, featured a completely Qatari field in the 40,000€ grand prix, save for two Jordanian riders. From the 19 starters, just five went clear to force a jump-off. The first four all had rails, and in a thrilling finish it was the final rider, Hamad Nasser Al Qadi aboard Limoncello 6, who had a careful clear, incurring just one time fault for the win.

Al Qadi is a bit of a bionic man, having broken 12 bones and various body parts being held together by metal. It did not slow him down here, though, and he pocketed the winner’s share of 13,200 euro.

“He jumped really superb here,” he said of the 14-year-old gelding that is owned by the Qatar Armed Forces. Next week he will be travelling to Stal Tops in Holland to begin working with a recently-purchased horse, Deja Vu, with his sights set on the Olympics.

Bassem Hassan Mohammed also had a very good week, winning two classes with Anyway II and placing second here with a very speedy four-fault round. In third spot was Awad Al Qahtani with Sjoeke.

650,000€ Grand Prix Al Shaqab

The grand finale to the show, this rich class attracted 27 riders who battled it out over enormous courses set by Bob Ellis. The top 18 were invited back for the second round, and of those only three went double clear – Gregory Wathelet (BEL) with Sea Coast Forlap DC, Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Chiara 222, and young Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) riding Cortez. This made for an edge-of-your-seat jump-off; Wathelet had a careful clear in 40.73 seconds, but Beerbaum stepped it up a notch and blasted through the timers in 37.02 seconds. That left the onus on Philippaerts, who took some crazy risks, cutting corners and galloping hard, unfortunately taking down a rail and coming through the finish in 36.20 seconds.

The charismatic Beerbaum, who pocket the 214,500€ winner’s share of the purse, praised Ellis for his grand prix track. “I think the difficulty for the course designer was to find the right measurements, especially for the first round. [In the class] we had 50 per cent of the best riders you can imagine, and then some up-and-coming, younger ones. To not end up being too big or too easy was quite a bit of a challenge. To end up with eight clear rounds from 27 was exactly right. The second round was completely different – a shorter course, much more difficult, with bigger jumps, so we ended up with only three in the jump-off. It couldn’t have been better.”

Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Chiara 222 won the Grand Prix Al Shaqab on the final evening of the show. Graham Gannon photo

Ludger Beerbaum (GER) and Chiara 222 won the Grand Prix Al Shaqab on the final evening of the show. Graham Gannon photo

He described Chiara’s attitude about the Al Shaqab facility. “She liked it from day one. We came here a year ago for the first time, and she jumped really good; I finished fourth in the grand prix. I was here not long ago for the Global Champions Tour final and was second behind Scott Brash. There’s no question the horse enjoys the ring, enjoys the facilities all around. You don’t find many shows in the world with stabling that nice – big stables, good fresh air, not having to depend on the climate outside. You have a fantastic area outside to practice your horses, warm them up indoors, outdoors, the footing is perfect, and then a ring this size. I’m delighted – and for all these days I have not heard any complaints from my colleagues, which is really rare.”

Wethelet was equally happy with his second-place finish. “I had to go first, but I knew before I started I could not go faster than Ludger. My horse is not ready for it. Ludger did it perfect, like always.”
Philippaerts knew he had to go for broke. “I was last to go, so I knew what the time was to beat. I tried to give everything; I gave it a try and I thought my horse jumped good.”

Ellis was pleased with the results during the event. “I think the sport we’ve had all week has been amazing. The facilities here are second-to-none. We have been made very, very welcome by everybody.” He was especially impressed with the strides the Qatari riders have been making at this level. “They are getting closer and closer to winning these big classes.”

The show ended with high praise from all fronts – riders, officials, press – for wonderful organization, and excitement and expectation is already building for the CHI Al Shaqab 2015 and beyond.